The Four Steps

The Four Steps

As noted before, in terms of “popularity,” the five basic human movements from the Strength Coach’s perspective are in this order:
1. Push
2. Pull
3. Hinge
4. Squat
5. Loaded Carry
However, in terms of simple impact, the ability to be a “game changer” to an athlete, this is the order:
1. Loaded Carry
2. Squat
3. Hinge
4. Pull
5. Push
And, the five movements have an interesting relationship when one wants to move into the area of “Metabolic Conditioning.” I first heard this term in the late 1970s or early 1980s from the work of Ellington Darden. Essentially, Metabolic Conditioning is that odd feeling when one moves from one movement, say Squats, to another movement like a Pull Up and even though the heart rate is within reason (cardiovascular conditioning, so to speak) and the muscles about to be used are fresh (so strength endurance isn’t an issue) but the athlete can’t gear up enough “whatever” to do the job.

Don’t go crazy with metabolic conditioning. Yes, it has a value. Yes, it is a “finisher” or a “gasser,” but it can also lead to a variety of issues from simple joint issues from crappy reps to some serious medical conditions that seem to be sweeping some facilities.

The important thing is the mix. Patterning movements work well for Metabolic Conditioning because the amount of movement “error” is going to be minimal. Mixing them with the other movement is the issue. Very simply, I believe that there are four natural combinations and they move naturally through this system. The key has always been: “what to mix with it (the basic patterning movement)?”

A few years ago, I discovered the simple combo called “The Eagle.” Our school mascot was the Soaring Eagle, so the name was a natural. It combined the simplest of the Loaded Carries, the patterning movement “Farmer Walks,” with the basic grinding Squat, the Double Kettlebell Front Squat. I am going to say “simply” here, but the workload is incredible. Simply, we had the athlete do eight Double Kettlebell Front Squats, then drop the weight to his sides and Farmer Walk for twenty meters, then another eight squats and repeat until you complete eight circuits. That goal is often not met.

There are some hidden benefits to this combo. The athlete needs two kettlebells and never puts them down. So, the metabolic hit is accelerated by the grip work, the wrestling with the bells and the sheer volume of carrying the load. It was this “Eagle” that made me think about the “ideal” combos.
Patterning movements work well with Grinds. However, they all don’t work well together! Oh, sure, you can slap together anything, but the “Four Steps” are ideal for most people.

As you look up the Intervention chart, it is easy to see that the Patterning Movement of Loaded Carries (Farmer Walks) was simply mixed with the Grinding Movement of Squats (Double Kettlebell Front Squats). For whatever reason, those two Kettlebells also were a sign from heaven that this was going to be a hard workout.

Moving up the chart, note that the Patterning Movement for the Squat (Goblet Squat) work extraordinarily well with the Grinding Movement of the Hinge (Bulgarian Goat Bag Swings). This single Kettlebell workout can really stoke your fires. It doesn’t have to be complex in numbers or structure, but try it.

The next movement has actually changed the way I teach both the Hinge and the rowing motions for pulls. Using the Wall RDL mixed with a Row seems to really protect the lower back (an issue for many lifters who row, including me) and seems to light up the whole back from an inch below the knee through the neck. That’s a lot of muscles.

The fourth and final combo as we walk the “ladder” up the lifts is combining the Patterning Movement of the Pull (Bat Wings) with the Grinding Push (Bench Press or Push Ups). It becomes similar to the classic bodybuilding “Superset” but the athlete is deeply protecting his shoulders. Many trainees tend to do far too many horizontal presses and totally neglect the opposite pull. That’s also why many trainees have shoulder issues.

The clever ones who have looked at these four have added: “Why don’t you mix Planks with Car Pushing?” Now, that is funny at least at one level, but one better be fully planked when push a car or a prowler.

These four combos:
1. Farmer Walks and Double Kettlebell Front Squats
2. Goblet Squats and Bulgarian Goat Belly Swings
3. Wall RDLs and Rows
4. Batwings and Push Up
can be a training program in themselves. The first two are clearly the best simple workouts I have ever used. The second two are more traditional bodybuilding movements, but work well with even the newest of trainees.

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